Monthly Archives: May 2009

Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Drug Fight The Flu?


In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Bristol-Meyers Squibb, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have found that  Abatacept (Orencia)  a drug for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and manufactured by Bristol-Meyers Squibb, reduced the severity of  illness and death in mice exposed to the Influenza A virus.  This may provide a new treatment for the influenza virus that would cut down on the immune response to the virus and still maintain the protective effects.


This drug does not interrupt the immune system’s attack in the lungs which helps to kill the virus, but it prevents the T-cells from overreacting which can make you feel sick and can lead to pneumonia. This “overreacting” immune response is most often found in young healthy people and is thought to be the leading cause of death from pandemic strains of flu.  It is thought to be true in the early cases of the H1N1 (“swine flu”).  Currently this drug is not approved by the FDA for treatment of influenza.  It is however approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.


The researchers tested the effectiveness of this drug on mice.  After the mice were injected with a lethal dose of the influenza A virus, the survival rate for the treated mice was 30% higher than the untreated mice.  The treated mice recovered faster and suffer less lung damage than the untreated mice.  The scientist found that treating the mice with Abatacept (Orencia) minimized the amount of tissue damage caused by the immune response and still enable the body to fight off the virus.  Treatment with Abatacept (Orencia) made a significant improvement to the survival of the mice infected with the lethal dose of the virus.  The survival rate was 80% for the treated mice verses 50% for the untreated mice.


There are three types of seasonal influenza,  A, B and C. There are numerous subtypes of Influenza A including the new strain H1N1 also known as the “swine flu”. Currently vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection with the virus.  The antiviral drug, Tamiflu can help to prevent the virus from spreading in the body if it is taken within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.






The iPhone and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Recently I misplaced my phone.  I have no idea what happened to it, but somehow it disappeared.  After a week long failed search I finally gave up and decided I could no longer survive without a cell phone. So off I went to the AT&T store to find a new phone that would fit my needs.

I am really not a technology person and I really wasn’t sure what I was looking for.  But as I looked through every display phone in the gallery I found myself going back to the iPhone. I really wanted to explore all my options before making a choice.  It took me quite a while because I tried out just about every phone in the place. My choice was based on a lot of factors.  Ease of use, size ,weight and keypad were just a few of my requirements.  I wanted a phone that gave me the ability to tweet when  the mood hit me and I wanted to be able to work on a post from just about anywhere.  You never know when inspiration will strike and I wanted the ability to work whenever, where-ever.  I narrowed my search down to the iPhone and the Blackberry Curve.

The deciding factor ended up being rheumatoid arthritis.  The Curve offers many of the same features as the iPhone with one glaring and all important (to me especially) difference.  Touch screen technology.  Until you have experienced the difference you cannot imagine how wonderful touch screen technology is.  I used to avoid text messaging because my fingers hurt.   Either my fingers hurt when I started to text or by the time I finished texting my fingers would begin to hurt and so I just stopped texting altogether.

The design of the iPhone makes texting more comfortable in the hand.  The full qwerty keyboard  adapts for different applications and it is a lot easier than it looks.  I was afraid that I would have a hard time with the touch screen distinguishing between the characters.  It takes a little while to get used to where you need to place your finger to hit the intended character but once to get used to it the typing can go really fast.  When I say place your finger I mean just that.  The effort required to chose a character is slight.  You barely need to touch the screen at all. Because the screen works based on body heat you don’t need to worry about unintended usage

I have had the phone for 3 days now and I can’t say enough good things about it.  Currently there are 35,000 applications that can be used on this phone and the applications are increasing.  Really this is far more than any phone that I have ever owned.  Within minutes I had sync’d up my itunes and  all my contacts in outlook so that even though I didn’t have my sims card from the lost phone all my phone number were in my new phone in seconds.

Just like the ads say there really is an app for everything.  I have twitter, facebook, ebay, amazon, itunes and the list goes on.  Every time I go to the app store I find something else I want to add.  Some of the apps cost a minimal amount while others are free.

Price is an important factor in considering anything these days.  This phone is not cheap.  The cost was $199.00 with a 2 year contract with AT&T ( without the 2 year contract the phone retails at $599.00) and  you must agree to a Data Plan with AT&T when you purchase this phone. This data plan is a commitment that cannot be backed out of.  The data plan is part of owning this phone.  The Blackberry’s data plan can be backed out of after 30 days if you decide that you do not want to use wi-fi service.

A fellow twitterer told me over the weekend that her provider changed her phone for free when she told them that she had rheumatoid arthritis and that she could no longer text without pain.  She lives in the UK so you might want to ask your provider what they may be willing to offer for your circumstances.  It is worth asking.

Happy Memorial Day!

American Flag I hope that everyone has a nice Memorial Day.  Our day will be filled with 2 parades where my son Nathan will be marching and will be playing Taps at the services at the end of the parade.  I will without a doubt be in tears.  Taps always gets to me. With Nathan playing it  I am sure that it will get me going.  I will be remembering my father-in-law who served in the US Army.  I am sure that he will be looking down on his grandson with great pride.  To all our fallen heroes  we honor you and to their families.  Thank You.

Stress and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Have you noticed that when you are stressed your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms seems to worsen?  I certainly have.  With the economy in the state that it is in there is no doubt that a great many people are dealing with increased stress in their lives these days.  If you have rheumatoid arthritis you might want to try to find a constructive way to handle your stress.  Research has shown that stress plays an important role in the inflammation that causes pain in rheumatoid arthritis.  Molecules called cytokines are released in the body when we are stressed.  These cytokines contribute to inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis which results in more pain and stiffness.

According to Webster’s dictionary stress is defined as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation”.  Research suggests that there is a close relationship between stress and the onset and sustainment of disease with people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Some research indicates that stress can change the activity of lymphocytes (B cells) and macrophages and  stress could suppress T-cells in RA  leading to more active disease. .

Sometimes  when the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis worsen, that can cause more stress which leads to worsening symptoms which in turn can cause more stress. Pain can also increase your stress level.  Make sure you discuss with your rheumatologist your pain level so that it can be controlled.

Life in general in filled with stress.  How you handle your stress is critical in managing your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.  Here are some of the methods that I use that help me deal with the stresses of my daily life.

  • Meditation: 10 minute in the morning helps me to prepare for the day and 10 minutes at night helps me to wind down and let go of the days activities
  • Yoga: Yoga helps me to stay in touch with my body, to center my mind and feel connected to both
  • Exercise: Exercise can be difficult especially when you are in the middle of a flare.  Listen to your body and what you are able to do and check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine
  • Journaling: Sometimes just getting your thoughts on paper can help you to work through whatever issues you may be having that are causing stress
  • Laughing:  Laughter causes the pituitary gland in the brain to release pain suppressing compounds.

The same way that stress can adversely effect the level of pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, positively dealing with stress can improve the symptoms of the disease.  Try to find a stress relieving method that best suits you.  Ultimately you know what works for you and what doesn’t.  Eliminate what doesn’t work and focus on what does.

Pineapple for Rheumatoid Arthritis

PineappleThere is nothing more refreshing in the summertime than some nice fresh pineapple to snack on.  It turns out that pineapple is good for rheumatoid arthritis as well.  Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which breaks down protein and has anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects. For best anti-inflammatory effect make sure that you eat the pineapple alone between meals.  Pineapple is nutrient rich in potassium, calcium, vitamins  B1, B6 and C,  It also has copper and dietary fiber. Pineapple contains sulfur enzymes that help in digestion If you take glucosamine for arthritis bromelain can  aid in the absorption by up to 90%.  If you want to take a supplement to get the benefits of bromelain without eating the fruit it comes in tablet form in 80mg to 320mg each.  Make sure that you consult you doctor before taking any supplement.  I personally would much rather enjoy the fruit.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: One Disease, Two Generations

When I was 9 or 10 years old my mother started complaining that her thumb on her right hand was bothering her.  She couldn’t remember hitting or injuring it in any way.  I clearly remember her telling a neighbor that it felt like she had bruised her thumb.  It wasn’t even something that she considered going to the doctor about.  It just seemed odd.  About 2 months later she woke up in the morning and could not get out of bed.  I remember how scared I felt as my mother cried out in pain while my father lifted her from the bed to carry her to the car and take her to the hospital.  I had never seen my father carry my mother before.  At that point my sisters and I knew that there was something seriously wrong.

My parents spent the better part of the day and night at the hospital and when they came home my father helped my mother to bed and told us that the doctors thought that my mother had rheumatoid arthritis.  I had no idea what that mean or how it would change our lives.  I just wanted my mom to stop hurting and just be Mom again.  

I watched this disease change my mother.  In the 1970’s there was not a lot of treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis.  The doctors mostly gave my mother enormous amounts of aspirin to help with the symptoms.  She had these bizzare scaffolding like contraptions that she wore on her fingers that used rubber bands to keep the fingers in place at night.  The objective was  to keep the joints from contracting and to try to hold off the deforming effect of the disease.  It did not work. Continue reading

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